After a three-game winning streak, the Portland Trail Blazers came crashing back to earth tonight against the Dallas Mavericks, losing 130-110 in a game that was over soon after the half. Damian Lillard scored 24 in the loss, inching closer to Clyde Drexler on the Trail Blazers franchise scoring list. Lillard’s buckets were about the only pretty thing in what became an ugly evening in Texas.
If you missed the game, you can find our quarter-by-quarter recap here. After that, here are a few observations to keep you company.
Luka Doncic spent the first six minutes of the game distributing, trying to get other teammates involved in the game. After that, it was ON. The Blazers always have trouble with Doncic. He’s too big for Lillard to handle comfortably, but he can step back from or go around Portland’s bigger defenders. He got even scarier, somehow, when Kemba Walker entered the game and Luka could play off-ball. Portland didn’t know what to do with him at that point. Doncic fried them, again, for 33 points, 9 assists, and 6 rebounds.
The Mavericks tried playing the larger Dorian Finney-Smith on Damian Lillard for swaths of this game. That left smaller defenders on Jerami Grant. Grant responded by posting in, or near, the lane. It worked for a minute. Grant scored a bucket at the start of the game. He drew a foul too. But the offense narrowed down in a pattern it would take the Blazers a while to undo. (See below.) That wasn’t Grant’s doing by any means. It just set the stage for mismatch basketball, which isn’t Portland’s strength.
When the Mavs sensed Portland’s strategy and started keying in on Grant, the party was over. He couldn’t get off shots or get clean moves. Grant finished with 7 points on just 9 total attempts for the night.
For approximately the 92nd game in a row, Portland allowed the opponent to shoot freely from the arc off of any action. Dallas managed 18-43, 41.9% tonight. Portland got away with it against San Antonio and Minnesota by being better on offense than they were bad on defense. Dallas wasn’t having it. They can score as well as the Blazers can. And they did. Threes were a big part of that.
As a supplementary point, Dallas shot 55.6% from the field overall.
Jusuf Nurkic thrived once again in an environment where he was the only legitimate big man. Unlike Grant, Nurk scored inside quite naturally, either posting or off of put-backs. He was a stout rebounder and, with a little help, kept the Mavericks out of the lane. Dallas prospered tonight because of mid-range jumpers and triples, not because they were driving or scoring inside. (Or at least not when the scoreboard mattered.) Nurkic was a big part of that. He finished the game with 16 points on 6-8 shooting in 21 minutes.
Anferenee Simons caught the isolation bug soon after Grant did. He shot 3-10 for 7 points in 24 minutes. Dallas was able to key in on him because they pretty much knew he wasn’t passing. Simons is a one-man matchup nightmare, but he’s not a dominant force that way yet. Between Simons and Grant, the passing just didn’t happen.
Scoring in the paint was a side-effect of Portland’s matchup-heavy offense. The Blazers got 44 inside tonight. But they got only 21 assists, few of them when the game was still a game.
One pleasant side effect of the blowout: Portland’s key players got pulled midway through the third period. They should be fresher than normal for the fourth game of this extended road trip tomorrow night.
The Blazers draw the Houston Rockets tomorrow evening with a 5:00 PM, Pacific start.